Harrogate Feminists

Heirloom, by Val Smith
March 17, 2011, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

we are a tidy clan

given to sorting out, cleaning up, chopping down, pruning, throwing away

we are not hoarders

we are also ham-fisted

no set of glasses, no dinner-service, tea-service, canteen of cutlery

nice china fruit-bowl with six matching little dishes

remains a set for long


our household goods and our homely chattels

get used up, worn out, smashed by accident, chucked out on purpose


our only heirloom is the workbox

polished and fluted outside, soberly elegant,

a riot of ornament within


it has three layers

one of tiny boxes in ivory and silver

flowers and creatures blackened with age

the next a little larger, wood-veneer decorated

cut with a fretshaw sized for the fairies

bottom  layer for the work, the endless embroidery


“it came from granma’s junk-shop

you must leave it to your daughter”

my mother hands it over

full of buttons, press-studs, beads, buckles, sequins


our clan is matriarchal

property descends through the female line

a mother’s word is law


the workbox has been stolen

I found the buttons in a ditch

if you find it in a shop

I have the  bit that was broken

third from the left, second layer


please leave it to your daughter

Reproduced with permission of the author,Val Smith

from her booklet of poetry entitled “purl one, slip one, knit two together”

which she produced for our A Celebration of Women event


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